There's a counter on Granfaloon Bus' Web site that's supposed to keep track of how many people have visited. Strangely enough, it always says the same thing: "You are visitor number 1. That's how popular is Granfaloon Bus." While it's true that the quartet, which was formed 10 years in San Diego, has a rather low profile even in its San Francisco home, it also has garnered a steady following of people who appreciate twisty-turny, psychedelic country-rock. In fact, few other Americana bands can claim to have opened for Nirvana and toured Europe with Souled American, been compared to the Butthole Surfers and Neil Young, received a four-star review in Rolling Stone, and released three albums on a German record label. The band's latest release, a collection of odds and sods called Necks & Backs, includes dust-bowl weepers, surrealistic stomps, folky ballads, a John Denver reinterpretation, and even a tweaked-out dub number. This is one magic bus that's a majorly fun ride.
Following in the footsteps of "cosmic American music" pioneer Gram Parsons, Mover effortlessly melds the worlds of rock, country, and R&B. With sweet harmonies and Stonesy chops, Mover can go from plaintive to just plain kick-ass in a couple of songs -- an ability showcased on the band's two recordings, Original Recipe and The Only One. The latter album, released on Berkeley's Mod Lang Records, earned the band instant acclaim as one of San Francisco's finest purveyors of good time rock 'n' roll. Mover's British Invasion-meets-Americana sound and gifted playing take the band to magical, timeless places most could never hope to reach. Just listen to the dreamy guitar washes on "Drunk on Wine," the Creedence-evoking hooks on "Hitched a Ride," or the '60s pop bounce on "Train," and you'll agree that Mover is one of the most aptly named bands around.
Whisky Pills & the PBR Street Gang
The backwoods stomp of Whisky Pills & the PBR Street Gang puts the "grrr" back into urban grit. Whether running from hellhounds or twanging out a tale of belligerent, beer-goggled women, this is a band that knows how to make a skillet and washboard sing. Its five-song self-titled EP includes such hits as "Sunnyville," where an overly inquisitive police officer ends up getting more than he bargained for, and "B-Side Sam," a moving elegy to the caravans of good Samaritans who fill our nation's highways. However good its CD might be, the Gang is best know for its incendiary live shows. With Pills hooting and walloping on his banjo, Lupo singing and slapping at his washboard and skillet, Tony Litwak bumping the bass, Jamie Lease smashing out a beat, and guitarist Diamond D cutting a ragged hole through it all, Whisky Pills & the PBR Gang shines like a house afire.
Here's a San Francisco-based metal band that doesn't take itself too painfully seriously. With a promotional insert addressed to "fans of hard music, Anytown, Planet Earth," 401K is poised for Spinal Tap-styled world domination. With grinding, Lemmy Kilmeister-ish vocals, Sabbath-like monochromatic riffs, and a heavy nod to altmetal heroes Helmet, 401K rocks all around the clock. During live gigs, the band members dress up in their best Financial District attire, casting themselves as day-traders who like to bring the noise on the weekends. While the yuppie scum gimmick is not palpable on the group's demo CD, the opening track "Randall" sports lyrics that give Cheech & Chong's classic "Earache My Eye" a run for its money. With tongue firmly wedged where the sun don't shine, 401K appears disinterested in having anyone else take the group too seriously either. The only attempt at seriousness can be found on the band's Web site, which is littered with pleas for support for local music. Rock on, 401K, and let's hope that retirement plan is as solid as your name would imply.
In the tradition of massive things that start with "M" -- Motorhead, Melvins, Mountain, Melville -- Matterhorn takes the Nantucket sleigh-ride straight to the heavy metal torture chamber. Its debut album, Set to Rise, conjures up images of leather-clad dwarves grunting and sweating while pumping the bellows of a huge furnace. White-hot sparks singe the arm hairs of a burly giant who is forging a new kind of rock. After recently losing the services of singer Scott Carter, the rest of the band -- bassist Matt Zwicker, drummer Eddy Dishart, and guitarist Rob Kimball -- plans to make its new creations even more complex and dissonant. Matterhorn's first tour kicks off Oct. 17 with an appearance at the Covered Wagon's revered heavy metal showcase, "Lucifer's Hammer"; parents across the nation should lock up their angry teenagers and shut down the local minimart parking lot. Soon the BMX bikes and hot-rodded El Caminos will be headed for the hills.